30 September 2014

With increasing cuts to Fire and Rescue Services, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) is trying to help businesses avoid unnecessary costs associated with fire. 

Some estimates suggest that false fire alarms cost UK businesses over £1 billion a year. False alarms disrupt businesses productivity during evacuations and in the retail world this can also be an opportunity for thieves.  

Of course, most importantly, false alarms put people's lives at risk. Loss of confidence in the fire alarm system can make people complacent and stop behaving as they should in the event of a real fire. Delaying an evacuation to finish an email or phone call could mean that they’re unable to get out of a building in a real fire situation. 

The FIA has put false alarms high on the agenda with their ‘Cut False Alarms Costs!’ website: http://www.fia.uk.com/en/cut-false-alarm-costs

The ‘Cut False Alarms Costs!’ website has lots of useful documents for download and information explaining false alarms, how to manage them and who’s responsible. 

The starting point is to realise that there is a problem; sensible management of a building and the fire alarm system will lead to a solution. False alarms are caused by poor building management, poor fire alarm system design or poor maintenance:

Poor Building Management – i.e. when contractors are allowed to undertake work without precautions being taken to reduce the risk of false alarms

Poor Fire System Design – a kitchen with a smoke detector installed

Poor Maintenance – a poorly maintained smoke detector has become over sensitive?

Incidents of false alarms are put into categories which should be recorded in a logbook to help organise the information. In the UK, BS 5839-1 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings recommends the following four categories:

Unwanted alarms – Burning toast or steam that a fire detector mistakes for a real fire

Equipment false alarms – An alarm generated by a piece of faulty equipment

Malicious false alarms – Deliberate breakage of a manual call point

False alarms with good intent – Someone smelling smoke or sensing a possible fire


Smoke detectors

False alarms triggered by smoke detectors could be caused by cooking and/or burning toast; insects; welding, soldering; steam, dust and aerosols; candles and open fires or lack of maintenance.?

Heat Detectors?

Heat detectors tend to be less prone to false alarm signals and are generally used in areas where smoke alarms will be too sensitive, such as kitchens. They are set to allow for expected temperature levels and will trigger an alarm if the temperature goes above that level. 

Manual Call Points (MPC)?

MCPs don’t usually cause false alarms due to faulty equipment. However, the glass can be broken deliberately or by accident. If there’s a high risk of this, transparent flaps or covers which have to be lifted before the glass can be broken can be fitted. 

Building Management

If you have a problem with persistent false alarms, set a target number to try not to exceed and aim to drive that down to zero. All incidents of false alarms should be investigated and recorded to establish the cause. The causes should then be shared with staff so that they are aware of the problem and know how to avoid them. For example, if smoking is a problem, make sure that proper facilities are provided away from smoke detectors. 

Competent companies should carry out routine maintenance to ensure that all equipment is operating as it should. The FIA recommends the use of Third Party Certified companies to ensure peace of mind that maintenance is carried out by competent person. 

There are many solutions to drive down false alarms and cutting their cost to your business. For further advice and downloads visit http://www.fia.uk.com/en/cut-false-alarm-costs.

Graham Simons, FIA Technical Manager